Understanding Distance In The Martial Arts

Distance is the hard counter to a faster training partner, by controlling the distance you negate their speed and determine the when and where a technique is applied to them, while preventing your training partner from placing a technique on you.

For this exercise there are three distances to understand and be able to manipulate, and then a fourth distance where we want to always operate from.

Imagine you and a training partner in the dojo…

You are standing in the center of the mat and they are fifteen or so feet away which is the first distance. At this distance you are very safe from a direct attack because your training partner can’t physically get to you without taking a number steps in your direction.

Even with a running start it will take them a few moments to reach you, and in that time you can prepare for the attack and easily counter them- obviously a bull rush straight in is never a good idea.  We would all LOVE for our training partners to begin an attack in this way, but it is rarely going to happen.

The next distance (2nd) again has you in the center of the mat with your training partner now ten feet or so away from you.  At this distance to now execute an attack at you, your training partner has to take a step or two forward to close the distance.  You are in “danger” at this range, but this is a good start and place to be in- by having them take step or two before the punch, grab, or tackle (attack) you have a moment to be able to counter them.

Keep in mind this 2nd distance gets adjusted +/- a few feet depending on the terrain and the length of your training partner’s legs- with how much distance they can cover in each stride.

For example with one person the 2nd distance might be eight feet, but if you and I were working out that distance would be ten feet since I have very long legs and stride.

The 3rd distance is where you are on the training mat and your partner is only a foot or two away from you and this is THE worst place to be! Without even having to take a step they can punch/kick/tackle you and this is the distance were is comes down to pure speed (not where WE want to be)- is their punch quicker than your legs.

At the third distance you are at the most danger and we don’t want to be here unless we can then use timing and balance against our training partner- more on this in a bit.

Before we get to the 4th distance- the sweet spot we want to exist in, we have to understand the other three distances and be able to both see when we are at those distances, and be able to float in and out of them with our footwork and martial arts body movement at a moment’s notice- so get to work figuring this out for a few…

NOW we are ready for the 4th distance and how to implement it- go back to the center of the mat and have your training partner assume the 2nd distance- the one where they can get to you with a single step or two. Once they have set this up, before they attack, take a slight step back, an inch or two, and now you are at the 4th distance- you appear to be in “range” of an attack, but are really just outside of it.

You have now shifted form the 2nd distance to the 1st distance without your training partner even knowing it!

A MISS is a MISS be it by an inch or a mile, and now you have the illusion of being in range when you are not really in range. When an attack comes into play against you from your training partner you now all have all the time in the world so to speak to deal with it, fully negating their speed against you- having them miss without even knowing it.

Now that you have an understanding of distance you are going to have to take a look at your style of martial arts and the type of footwork it uses to move around, playing and adjusting it to begin manipulating the distances.